Sunday 26 November 2023

Will Ondo State breathe after peace deal?..... By Martins Oloja

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the weekend played host to a meeting of the factions in the protracted political crisis in Ondo State. And when the fog on the meeting inside the presidential villa Abuja was clear, the factions in the political crisis in the state were said to have reached a truce after the meeting brokered by the President. There was even a storm in a teacup before clarity that there was going to be a doctrine of necessity as it was in 2010 when the doctrine was the political strategy that brought President Jonathan to power. The coast is now clear that the status quo remains and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu remains in office and the Deputy Governor should no longer fear impeachment.

The president had summoned stakeholders in the state, including lawmakers, Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa and party chiefs to Abuja in his bid to diffuse the tension created by the absence of the governor, Rotimi Akeredolu who has been running the state from Ibadan, the Ondo State capital.

There was however a bugbear to the effect that Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa was expected to submit an undated letter of resignation to President Tinubu, to guarantee that he would not disrupt the political configuration in the state while he runs the government until the full recovery of Governor Akeredolu whose whereabouts remain unclear. What is clear is that Mr Aiyedatiwa will keep his job and run the government, but he will not be declared acting governor, despite the continued incapacitation of Governor Akeredolu. This is part of the deal at the conflict resolution meeting at the weekend

Another takeaway from the meeting is that the deputy governor was told not to tamper with the structure of government and the state executive council of the state among other things. It was also resolved that the leadership of the House of Assembly would not be changed and that state activities should continue as it was before the conflict.

Shedding more light on the resolutions, the spokesperson of the House of Assembly, Olatunji Oshati, said yesterday that the rationale behind the safeguards was to allay fears of victimisation of members of the state executive council who stood against the deputy governor during the crisis. Oshati added: “there is no need to make the deputy governor acting governor because the state governor, who is our father, is still there…There is no reason to rubbish the governor, because he is our father and we are all beneficiaries of his legacies, so we were mindful not to take any decision that would undermine him”.

Mr Akeredolu’s illness and absence had induced political maneuvering and created animosity between the deputy governor and his principal. Most of the aides including media officers in the office of the deputy governor have been sacked by the governor, no thanks to the protracted crisis.

After Mr Akeredolu’s return from his medical leave in August this year, the state House of Assembly made a sudden move to remove the deputy governor whom they accused of “disloyalty” and “gross misconduct.”

But the deputy governor obtained an order of the Federal High Court that restrained the chief judge and the lawmakers from taking any further step in the process until the court had examined Mr Aiyedatiwa’s complaints.

The crisis has divided Mr Akeredolu’s cabinet and the assembly into factions, and paralysed governance in the state. Most times the heads of the three arms of government haven’t been in the state. Mr Akeredolu has about a year left before the end of his tenure as governor. He was reelected to a second term in October 2020.

A chieftain of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifeere, Seinde Arogbofa, has expressed concerns over the resolutions reached on Friday at a meeting held by Tinubu with factions in the Ondo State political crisis.

On the resolution of the meeting against declaring Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa as acting governor, Mr Arogbofa warned that there could be a further crisis if there is no one from whom authority issues in the state government.

Just as elder Arogbofa noted, if the governor is in his office, there will be no need for an acting governor. But if the governor is not in office but just in power outside the state as a result of illness, there is a need for someone who has the authority to carry the task of governance.

If there is no one with that authority as it is now in Ondo state despite the resolution of the crisis, then there is a state of anomie. Who will be calling the shot in Ondo State the morning after the truce? The concern of the citizens of the state and the president is for there to be peace in the state but the truce reached isn’t likely to affect development of the state. They can pay salaries and pensions more regularly in the state henceforth but that is no news about development of a state that has suffered some reverses as a result of protracted illness and resultant crisis.

Is there a sense in which we can conclude that the president has resolved the crisis in Ondo State? Will the deputy Governor be allowed to preside over the state executive council regularly? Will he be able to prepare the 2024 Appropriation Bill? Is the snake that has been chasing everyone in the state not just scotched and not killed? Here is one scotched snake: The Aiyedatiwa group wanted the deputy governor to be made acting governor, and the Akinteriwa-led group wanted the deputy governor impeached to pave the way for Akinteriwa in 2024/2025. Has the president’s intervention killed the snake?

Is there any marked difference between what the president has done and what the Masari-led peace committee (of the APC) did? Did they just appeal to the two factions to sheathe their swords? Has a cabal that has been using the name of the governor to do anything with public fund not won a battle for the continued control of levers of power in Ondo state?

Since August 2023, the political leadership of the local governments in the state was dissolved and nothing has happened since then. Will the governor or the deputy governor be able to conduct local government elections after the truce? What has been the point at issue in Ondo state is succession crisis. How will the right candidate emerge from this so-called resolution?

It is a tragedy that Governor Akeredolu’s name is being dragged this way, no thanks to illness that no man has control over. May the Balm in Gilead be available for the governor as quickly as possible. The former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) who has spoken so courageously against opposition to federalism and power shift should not be reported negatively where weak institutions of governance are in focus. It is generally believed that the Governor is an honourable man. The former Attorney General of the state, (Akeredolu) should not be associated with subversion of the organic law of the land. He is a big minister in the temple of justice. He should speak up and allow his citizens to see his organic form. Is he in Nigeria?

Lucky Aiyedatiwa

The people of Ondo state want to see and hear about development planning not politics of succession and intrigues? The People of Ondo Southern Senatorial District, specifically, the Ikale, the Ilaje, the Apoi, and the Ijaw people spread across four local governments, Okitipupa, Ilaje, Irele and Ese-Odo local government councils have had their electricity disconnected for about 15 years. So are the people in Ore and others in Odigbo Local government council who have been suffering from power outage despite partial connection.

Parliamentarians and other political leaders from the zone have tried their best to restore electricity to the affected areas. But the truth is that the best the leaders have tried, has not yielded any result. The people are still in darkness. This is testimony time. There are three universities in Ondo State. The one established in Okitipupa during the Agagu administration has been left unfunded. The University is like a glorified secondary school campus. The oldest university, Adekunle Ajasin, University in Akungba, has also been underfunded. The academic and non-academic staff members too are not being regularly paid. There is the University of Medical Sciences established by the Mimiko administration in Ondo town. The university needs better funding. No one has heard from any of thise who would like to be the next governor whether indeed Ondo state needs three state universities when there is a Federal University of Technology in Akure. There is the oldest College of Education in Nigeria, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo that has been awarding degrees for more than 25 years. It is now a federal University of Education. How have high school students been performing in WAEC, NECO and JAMB examinations in recent years? What is the state of education funding in Ondo state. That will speak to what the future of the state will be. There are more questions that we should ask our representatives in the State Assembly from different parts of the State. But most of them have been working hard to impeach the deputy governor they should have fought for as Acting Governor so that there can be progress in the State.

So, let us ask the authorities and political leaders in Abuja and Akure why the law cannot rule in Ondo state presided over by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Section 191 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution states that: ‘The Deputy Governor of a State shall hold the office of Governor of the State if the office of Governor becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal of the governor from office for any other reason in accordance with Section 188 or 189 of this Constitution’.

In the main, what is the constitutional basis for the ‘alternative dispute resolution mechanism’ the president and his men imposed on Ondo state at the weekend? In any case, I join other citizens of the state in wishing the Governor of the state, Akeredolu quick recovery so that Ondo state can breathe again.

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